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but retained responsibility for the amphibious readiness of the Marine forces on Okinawa. Colonel Knapp, as Commander TF 78, reported operationally to Rear Admiral Don W. Wulzen, TF 76 commander, but administratively to FMFPac. Lieutenant Colonel Ewers as SLF commander retained operational control of both BLT 3/7 and his own helicopter squadron. While afloat, Ewers reported operationally to the ARG commander and administratively to Task Force 78.
Several of the senior Marine commanders believed that the ensuing dilution of Marine authority within the fleet could allow the SLF to be used for non-amphibious purposes, to the detriment of its mission. A case in point took place on 22 July. After the SLF had been released from its reserve role at Qui Nhon, the Navy diverted the ships of the ARG to assist in a salvage mission off Pratas Reef, 200 miles southeast of Hong Kong, where the destroyer USS Frank Knox (DD 742) had run aground. Two of the three ARG ships, the Talladega and the Iwo Jima, remained at the salvage site until 31 July. After a short port visit to Hong Kong, both ships arrived back at Subic Bay on 12 August. In the meantime, a third ARG ship, the LSD Point Defiance, had unloaded some of its equipment at Subic Bay to make more deckroom and then returned to the salvage operation where it remained until 19 August. On that date, all three ships were ordered to sail directly to Vietnam so that the SLF could participate in Operation STARLITE. According to the SLF commander, splitting the amphibious ready group resulted in leaving behind some of the amphibious equipment unloaded by the Port Defiance at Subic and the incremental arrival of BLT 3/7 in the battle area.11
After Operation STARLITE, General Henderson, as TF 79 commander and senior Marine officer in the Seventh Fleet, expressed his concern to General Krulak about the involuntary diversion of the SLF from training and refitting to salvage operations:
It appears that both the battalion commander and the SLF commander were concerned about the degradation of physical fitness of Marine personnel caused by confinement aboard ship. . . . The SLF commander although concerned, felt that higher authority was directing these movements with full appreciation of effect on integrity and readiness of SLF and refrained from objecting or coming upon the air to set forth his concern.12
General Henderson suggested that new liaison arrangements had to be made with both the SLF and the Seventh Fleet so there would not be a recurrence of similar incidents.
Since General Henderson, as 3d Marine Division assistant division commander, was about to depart for Da Nang, the responsibility for establishing the new relationships devolved upon his successor as CGFMFSeventhFIt, Major General Lewis J. "Jeff" Fields, the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division. General Fields had assumed command of the 1st Division on 11 August, just before its deployment to the Western Pacific. Accompanied by a small command group, the new division commander left California four days later for Okinawa, stopping en route at FMFPac headquarters in Honolulu. On 24 August, he opened the command post of the 1st Marine Division (Fwd) on Okinawa and at the same time assumed his new command responsibilities in the Seventh Fleet as CG TF 79.
General Fields had his own doubts about command relationships within the Seventh Fleet. He believed that the organization of the SLF at the time ' 'was still a reflection of our peacetime activities in the Western Pacific," and "to think that whoever was senior of the two commanders, helicopter squadron or infantry battalion, would command the SLF as well as his own unit was ridiculous . . . ." According to Fields, he decided, after much discussion with his staff, that the next SLF would be provided with an expanded headquarters to command both the helicopter squadron and infantry battalion, "leaving their commanders to carry out the duties for .which'they had been intended and assigned." By furnishing such a command, Fields thought that he "would have a commander of the force who could properly assist, and respond to the Navy commander's operations and plans.''13
On 11 September, he incorporated these views in a message to Admiral Blackburn. Fields proposed making the RAMAB/TF 78 commander and his staff the headquarters of the SLF. The Marine general further suggested that, "in order to provide for clearer lines of communication and to accurately portray actual relationships, I shall redesignate TG 78.5 as TG 79.5." He then declared,''my larger TF 79 staff will conduct all required joint planning functions with CTF 76 as well as providing you with advice concerning landing force matters." In effect, Fields was recommending the abolishment of the RAMAB command except as a paper designator until that time an actual MAB was activated.14
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